A carnival of cabernet

Tending the vines at Cape Mentelle (Photo: LVMH Group)

There’s a legion of great cabernets out there awaiting you, if my latest tasting is an accurate guide. From just over 100 cabernet sauvignons and cabernet-led blends, I scored 11 gold-ribbon wines (95 points plus), 28 silver-ribbon wines (between 90 and 94 points) and, surprisingly, another 34 rated close to silver, at 88-89 points.

That’s 73 of the 102 total, rating 88 or higher, which strikes me as an outstanding result.

There was several out-and-out stars, wines to mortgage the family home for. Cape Mentelle’s newie, the 2014 cabernet sauvignon, is I believe among the best that esteemed winery has ever made. I scored it 98, which is rare for me, especially for such a young wine just setting out on what will be a long career.

Snapping at its heels was the 2013 Leeuwin Estate Art Series, another statuesque cabernet from one of the most improved cabernet producers in the region. Third placed was another Margaret River wine, somewhat less well-known than the other two: Thompson Estate The Specialist 2013. Peter Thompson is a cardiologist and his top wines (there’s also an excellent chardonnay) are bottled under the Specialist label.

Also on gold-ribbon points from Margaret River, which is now surely Australia’s leading cabernet region, were Umamu Estate 2010, Heydon Estate W.G. Grace 2012, Xanadu Reserve 2014 and Stella Bella Serie Luminosa 2014.

Coonawarra was represented by Redman’s flagship wine, The Redman 2006 Cabernet Shiraz Merlot and Parker Estate First Growth 2013. The Yarra Valley was represented in this rarefied company by De Bortoli 2012 Melba Vineyard Limited Release and Oakridge Estate 864 2015. All stunning cabs.

A bee’s whisker away from the top group were two well-known performers, Hardy’s Thomas Hardy and Xanadu Stevens Road (both 2014), and a wine that’s new to me: 2015 Lehmann/Hesketh Cabernet Shiraz, an AUD $50 Coonawarra cabernet and Barossa shiraz blend, made by Phil Lehmann and Jonathon Hesketh, celebrating their fathers Peter Lehmann and Robert Hesketh, who also worked together in wine. Phil is the winemaker at the Hesketh-owned WD Wines (which also encompasses St John’s Road, Parker Coonawarra Estate, Hesketh and Vickery brands). Jonathon is managing director.

Superior value for money wines were Balnaves Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (AUD $40 and 93 points); Punt Road Napoleone Vineyard 2015 (AUD $32 and 92 points); Ross Hill Pinnacle Series 2015 (AUD $45 and 92 points) and Terre à Terre Crayères Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2014 (AUD $55 and 93 points).

And punching well above its weight was another Stella Bella wine: 2015 Skuttlebutt Cabernet Shiraz (AUD $18 and 89 points).

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